November/December 2016 Cape Cod Life Magazine

May we always have general stores

Cape Cod Life  /  November/December 2016 / ,

Writer: Brian Shortsleeve / Photographer: Terry Pommett 

May we always have general stores, November/December Cape Cod Life |

This image of The Old Village Store in West Barnstable was featured on the cover of Cape Cod LIFE’s November 1997 issue. Photo by Terry Pommett

My first trip to Cape Cod was in 1955 just after finishing second grade, for the second time, in Elmira, New York. My father’s family is from Elmira, and for a few years he and my mother had been talking about this place called Cape Cod.

Within walking distance of Craigville Beach, we rented a Victorian, three-story cottage looking out on tiny Lake Elizabeth in a village known as “Old Craigville.” Right outside the back door of this cottage was a walking path leading to Craigville Beach. Cottages bordered the path on both sides with porches, rocking chairs, music, laughter, and colorful summer evening lanterns. It was magical! This same path, in the other direction, led to the village green, The Craigville Inn, and a small white combination post office, gift shop, and penny candy store. The Village Green is surrounded by gingerbread cottages. One night a week there was a volleyball competition on the green and the whole village turned out.

My parents, my mom’s brother, Uncle John, and, including myself, the oldest five of our eventual family of eight children, stayed in the cottage. My mother’s mother, Grammy Kelley, in time remembered as “The Lady Carline,” stayed at the Craigville Inn along with her sisters and my great aunts Helen and Mary. Many mornings, my brother Mike and I walked up to the inn to join them for breakfast pancakes on the back porch dining room.

After a day at the beach, on many evenings many of us would pile in the family’s “woody” station wagon for the short drive to the 1856 Country Store in Centerville. For a wonderful description of this store, plus six other noteworthy general stores on the Cape and Islands, please read Sara Hoagland Hunter’s article on page 58 in this issue. I cannot say it any better than she has. For example, Sara writes, “A favorite purchase at Uncle Bill’s Country Store in North Falmouth is this: A painted refrigerator magnet captioned ‘Cape Cod makes me happier than a seagull with a French fry.’” Trust me, when you read Sara’s article you are going to want to visit all seven of these stores! One would be hard put to rank these general stores in terms of popularity. However, if one tried, out of fairness, and with today’s demands for “transparency,” the 1856 Country Store has the advantage of being located within walking distance of “Four Seas” Ice Cream shop in Centerville.

During more recent decades, Judy and I wanted our sons, Josh and Max, to have summertime memories growing up akin to the “Old Craigville” chapters of my youth. We were lucky enough to spend much time on the Island of Cuttyhunk with the boys sailing and fishing and having a ball. On Cuttyhunk, the “general store and penny candy” are found at the Island Market. It did not take Josh and Max long to learn how to use the family charge account at the Island Market.

“The memories we collect and give brighten our lives for as long as we live.”

My Best,


Coming soon:

P.S. As I mentioned in my last column, we are organizing an online Cape Cod Life General Store. We are inviting many Cape & Islands businesses to participate. Stay tuned!

Brian Shortsleeve

Brian Shortsleeve is the owner, publisher, and founder of Cape Cod Life Publications. His personal column, “Gunkholing,” has appeared in all issues of Cape Cod LIFE since the very first issue in 1979.